Sara Varatojo, is a Portuguese psychology student ‘with a curious mind’. She currently lives in England where she is working towards a master’s degree in social cognition at University College London, where she is involved in a research project on racial stereotypes. Sara has played the violin since she was six years old.
I cannot remember being alive without music surrounding me. In fact, I believe music spoke to me long before I learnt my first word. First, there was my mother softly humming The Blue Danube until I fell asleep in her arms. Then, there was the smile of my father, a musician, every time he would get back from a concert. Afterwards, at six years old, there I was, jumping up and down in front of my parents – a little girl asking for violin lessons like another might ask for a day at Disneyland. Up until now, there has not been a single moment in my life without those strings playing in the background. For me, having carried a case full of dreams and possibilities for fifteen years now, life without a soundtrack has never existed.
Music has always played an extremely important role in comforting me. I have danced to it with my eyes closed, but I have also sat quietly in my room listening to it carefully, for even in those moments where everything fell silent inside my head, I found comfort in the rests and fermatas. Music has taught me that silence can be a powerful statement and that, without it, melodies would be dull, tiring and repetitive.
Music might mean a night out or a study session but, above all, music means a familiar world with an extraordinary amount of possibilities still unexplored. It means feelings that are too intense to be written down or even spoken, only finding expression in the slow tempo of an Adagio or the agitation of a Presto. Music means the friends I made that spoke to me in languages I could not possibly understand but who, as soon as their fingers touched the strings, spoke to me in words and tonalities too beautiful not to be understood. Music means empathy and understanding. It means a shared world where it only matters whether you play a string or a woodwind instrument so that you know where to sit in the rehearsal room. Music doesn’t have colour or gender, and inside its world, there is no place for discrimination or inequality. It has taught me that life only achieves its full potential when we rely on other people – no concertino would sound the same without the ripieno – and that, sometimes, it is all right to step back and let others take the lead.
Music is the breath held until the very last note, the ‘Bravos!’ from the audience and the lingering sound of an authentic cadence that is sustained above the collective applause, accompanied by the notion that everything beautiful must end but can begin again with a new wave of the baton. In a world full of linguistic, cultural and psychological barriers, I believe music keeps us sane, marking the rhythm of the steps we take towards new challenges, but also allowing us to look back through every recapitulation.